Fed up with clickbait and the inane articles of most media covering the Villa? Well, MOMS has got the perfect remedy – a whole series of Villa Fans telling their own unique stories.
This one by Tom Hicks, takes us back to Wednesday 29th January 2014 and involves an impulsive train switch, a bottle of rum, a bunch of Baggie fans and a seven-goal thriller.
First of all, an introduction to Tom and his place in the Villa-verse…
My heroic Grandad. Not a soul in my family was into football. The typical story of the dad taking the son to the first game didn’t apply here, as he found snooker, darts and other sports bereft of excitement, more appropriate to take me to.
Luckily, in steps Grandad Mike to introduce me to Aston Villa.
He would tell me stories of the glory days in Europe, terror on the streets in the hooligan era and passions about our club’s legends that made me feel like they were celestials.
I didn’t need any more convincing, the club became my passion and despite all the bullying from glory-hunter fans (Manchester United fans in Tamworth…) there was nothing I couldn’t be more happy about.
First Villa Park match?
During the 1993/94 season, if I remember correctly. A 1-2 loss to Manchester United that sent my Grandad into a flurry of aggressive expletives toward some of the United 11. My memory is blurry but the noise in that place (Villa Park) was unforgettable.
First Villa hero?
Tough one, and I’ve just glimpsed at the next even tougher one… I would have to say Paul Merson. He was absolutely solid and one of my first memories of him was an interview where he had said playing for Villa was the best part of his career. It takes special words like these for me to call someone a hero.
Fabian Delph made it into that category for a couple of days…
Ultimate Villa legend?
Controversial on many levels, but for me, Gabby Agbonlahor.
Now, hear me out…
I know there are more obvious choices, Paul McGrath, for instance, but I don’t remember enough of that era. I need to go with the guy who gave me limitless amounts of hope (in the O’Neill days mostly)
I met Gabby back in 2008 at the gates of Pride Park in one of my first away games. There were rumours of Gabby being signed by the likes of United and Arsenal, so I wanted some clarification!
I very nosily and noisily shouted across the gates “What’s next Gabby?” and his response was nothing but gold (and disturbingly accurate).
“Destroy the Rams, Villa till I die,” he said.
I loved the response as a young lad and whether or not he said it for the cheers he got from the rest of the Villans around me, is one thing, but they did indeed smash the Rams 6-0 with Gabby getting on the score sheet. Not to mention, he was Villa till his career died.
The pace, passion, pride and any other definitive attribute he held, seemed to be the very blood in Gabby’s veins, the same passion was with me when I watched that team play.
He was ambitious, he would make runs I hadn’t seen anyone make before and he LOVED the club and the fans, not to mention being a constant superhero against the noses.
In his prime, he was the biggest inspiration in my eyes, his latter days were forgivable (by me, if not by everyone!).
Favourite Villa memory?
The play off final this year! That feeling of relief, euphoria, ecstasy and countless other emotions was too much for one man to take, let alone every Villan around the globe.
I can’t remember the last time I felt like that about anything, the minute that whistle blew it was pandemonium, and the parties to follow that night were absolute bedlam. I would relive that event as my groundhog day.
Your Villa Story…
Where’s My F**king Rum Gone, Baggies?
After a pleasant but messy visit to see some family in Plymouth, it was time to head home to London. I got on the train with a fuzzy head from the antics the night before, when my phone rang. At first I thought ‘nah, I’m not answering this’. I had no intention of being sociable, until I saw it was my pal Gemma from Aston.
If Gemma calls, it is Villa related….
So I answered the call and sure enough, the Villa sign appeared in the sky (think the Batman sign, but with a lion instead of a bat).
“Guess who’s got you a ticket for tonight’s game?” Gemma said.
I instantly sobered up, as I had miserably failed to get tickets for the local Villa derby with the Baggies, a game I always get over excited about. So I hopped off my London bound train at Bristol and went to pick up a new ticket to head to the Midlands.
Full of excitement, I nipped into the local offy to pick up some journey juice, the rum was going cheap, so sure enough it was a bottle o’ rum for me.
The rest of the journey zipped by until I got on the Witton train. I was still enjoying a few hearty swigs of rum, when a few meaty West Brom fans started taking the p***.
“ Oi, you’re getting smashed up today mate” rang out the generic mindless chat from the Neanderthals. At no bother to me, until we approached Witton station and they started getting a little up close and personal.
They took my rum on the ramp down from the train station and slammed my face into the fence. They were all having a jolly old time laughing and throwing cavemen slurs, when out of nowhere at least six Villa lads smothered them and took me away!
I didn’t see if they were violent, I didn’t see the aftermath, but what I do know is this legend Andy from Halesowen, turned to me and said, “here’s your rum mate”.
I will never forget this brotherhood that appeared to be linked only by the colour of a shirt. We headed off to the Witton Arm’s for a few bevs before the game and that story will carry with me forever.
Gemma arrived and we headed off to the Holte End.
Villa went 2-0 down in the first 10 minutes, typical. We went on to win 4-3 in a mental derby, that I’ll never forget.